A Disney Vacation an a Budget
I believe Dave Ramsey would call it, "how to go on vacation without it following you home".
As i type this my youngest child is watching the video Disney sends when you ask for the "planning" package. My youngest is finally 44" tall. Tall enough to ride on most rides at Disney. This is what my son reminded me of when we were at the Fair a few months back. We have been telling him for quite some time now that it just was not worth the trouble going when his little sister could not go on any of the rides. The rides she could go on he wanted nothing to do with. Now this is not to say don't bother to go before then. I know lots of folks who go with younger kids and do very well. It was just our decision.
It was time for that long awaited trip indeed. Our turmoil life had finally settled down. Now we had to wait for the right "sale". I have been keeping my eye on the sale cycles for over a year, knowing the time was going to creep up on me. I've seen free food packages. Free nights stay. Tried to get an idea of what times of year seemed to be cheaper. When they offered the best package deals. Everyone's opinion of what is the best package is different. I think Free food suits us best!
The package I selected was Kids Eat, Sleep and Play FREE. I should mention that this is a Disney Resort deal. Kids add little cost to the hotel expense anyway. All you will pay for them generally is the park tickets. This time, this deal seemed like the best idea for us. It was offered right in the middle of the hot, HOT summer. I was a little worried about the heat but decided lets do it. We will visit the parks as soon as they open, go back to the hotel in the afternoon and nap or swim. We will then return after 3 and stay till 11 when the parks close. We secured a room end of May for 5 days and included the dining package (remember kids were free). The dining package we choose was the quick service package. Two free quick service meals and two snacks a day. Meals include Entree, Drink and Dessert. Snacks are typically anything under $4. The variety ranges from Dole Fruit Whips, Baked Potatoes, Egg Rolls, Fried Rice, Nice Potions of French Fries. A snack is a meal in itself for my children. Total package was $1300. We paid for it in cash.
TIP: We did not add the Park Hopper option. Its an added expense that I did not feel necessary. Lets just pick a park and stay with it. If we choose to park hop on any particular day, we can always add it on that day for $40. But lets not pay for it and not use it.
So with trip tickets in hand it was time to do some planning. Not only did it have to be frugal but we have wheat allergies.
First Things To Do:
- First I secured our Character Dining reservations ASAP. Make sure to have allergy note on file. Do not delay on this one, spaces start filling up as soon as 90 days before the trip for some of the most popular character meals. Our choices were Chef Mickeys and Cinderella's Happily Ever After Dinner.
- Contact SpecialDiets@disneyworld.com and inform them of your reservations and ask for list of quick serve dining locations. I've included it below for this season but always check and make sure.
- Plan snacks that will be handy to carry in your Backpack. Be sure to order ahead special allergy items you plan to bring with you.
- Each park takes turns allowing extended visiting hours. One will extend hours for the morning while another that same day will be offering extended hours for the afternoon. Since we are only visiting one park a day, decide if we want to visit early extended hours or late extended hours. Deciding this will allow us to plan on what park to visit each day. We decided on late hours so we can sleep late. It is vacation after all.
- Now go to Disneyworld.com and plan your Itinerary. It will prompt you to select what park you are visiting each day.
- While at Disneyworld.com you can find the events for each day by clicking on the parks tab, each individual park and finally calendar to see what the events are happening each day including the parades and fire works. Put the times in your phone with an hour reminder ASAP! :-)
- Note on your Itinerary Allergy Free quick service locations for each park and important parade times.
- Research what rides are a "must see" for my kids ages. What rides NEED fast pass. Some madly popular rides run out of fast passes early afternoon. Come up with a plan on what rides you should visit first.
- Create a custom map on Disneyworld.com adding the rides you plan on seeing. You can print your maps immediately or have Disney send you "custom" maps in the mail.
A few ways we planned to save while at Disney World:
- Plan lots of car Activities for the long trip there. Ipods, DVD players, Books, Coloring Books and Crayons. Don't forget the sound proof head phones.
- Pack a breakfast/lunch for the road and Snacks for inside the park via backpack. Allergy folks should be allowed to bring in special foods.
- Plan to bring lots of your own Drinks. Our plan is to bring water and the powdered water flavoring to add. Once there each bottle can be refilled at the various water fountains. I understand that Disney World's water has a special taste that you may not like. This is where the powdered flavoring comes in handy. If you plan far enough in advance you can get a good deal with coupons on the water flavorings. In addition to this our package included a all you can drink Mug. These mugs are good for the duration of your visit and can be used unlimitedly at your resort. The package allowed one for each person in our party.
- Research the trends at the park via blogs and forums. Lots of these trendy items can be Purchased Ahead and brought with you. Glow Sticks for example are Dollar Store items. Don't make the mistake of purchasing them at the park. They are pretty expensive. Lots of kids wear the Lanyards full of collectable pins for trading with Cast members. These pins can be purchased on ebay for a dollar a pin. At Disney they run $7 to $15 each. Purchase a lot of pins and trade them for pins you are trying to collect.
- Be sure to make a Check List of items to pack and pack them carefully. Forgotten bathing suits for example could be expensive to replace. Pack your hats, sunglasses, bandannas, stroller if you have one, spritz bottle for a quick cool off while in line, hand held battery operated fans (dollar store item) and a soft collapsable cooler. Hard shelled coolers will not be allowed in the parks.
- Use Dave Ramsey's Envelope System and separate your money out for what you plan to spend each day. Considering our trip has the food included, I'm not planning to break the bank on how much I'll bring to spend. I'll even have a Souvenir envelope and a Car Gas envelope. I could not hurt to see how much the gas will cost by using a calculator.
My Gluten Free Snack List:
- Tostitos Corn Chips with Snack Sized Cups Fritos Cheese Dip
- Baked Doritos
- Lays Stacks. (love that non chip breaking container)
- Jack Link's X-Stick (a Gluten Free Slim Jim)
- Blue Diamond Smokehouse Almonds
- Ian's individual packs of Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Fruit Snacks/Fruit Roll Ups
- Individual Sized Fruit Cups (pineapple, mandarin Orange)
- Gluten Free Sandwich Petals will allow me to create a quick meal any time, any where.
Quick Service Locations that will be able to accommodate special dietary Requests:
- Columbia Harbor House
- Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe
- Pecos Bills Tall Tale Inn and Cafe
Disney Animal Kingdom:
- Flame Tree BBQ
- Liberty Inn
- Sunshine Seasons
- Electric Umbrella
Disney's Hollywood Studios:
- Backlot Express
- ABC Commissary
- Rosie's All American Cafe
And the most important tidbit of advice. Don't over plan your vacation. Remember to relax and enjoy. At only one park per day we admit that we will probably not see everything in each park. That is ok. My hope is that the planning I have done allows us to relax and enjoy the park with allergies and on a budget. Even if you are not on a budget, having snacks ready for the long lines will be a life saver for young children.
Want to see my Itinerary? Just click the link below.